Network giant Cisco has bought instant message technology company Jabber for an undisclosed amount. Sure, Cisco has also been buying up consumer-facing web companies in a move to become directly relevant to consumers. But that’s not what this purchase is about. Jabber, instead, is a back door for Cisco to reach both consumers and its traditional enterprise clients.

Jabber offers software and services based on the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP), a protocol used by popular web applications to share information almost instantaneously between users. XMPP is notably used by popular micromessaging service Twitter and Google’s Gtalk IM service. Jabber’s software also lets users communicate across AOL’s AIM, Yahoo Messenger, and Microsoft’s Windows Live Messenger.

So, on the consumer side, as entrepreneur John Furrier puts it:

All the major action going on [in the web today] revolves around these Jabber-like markets — presence, virtualization, networking, live video, real time conversations (aka social media), social graphs…etc …

More companies are using Jabber to build their IM services. For example, Meebo, the consumer-facing instant message aggregator, is launching a platform called CommunityIM, so other sites can seamlessly integrate its IM technology as a feature for their users. Meebo is hosting Jabber-based networks for each of its partners, and provides its own, customizable web interface for IM and notifications.

This way, a Meebo CommunityIM partner, such as teen social network MyYearbook, can let its users chat with each other on IM within the MyYearbook site — and also chat with friends who are on Gtalk, AIM, Messenger and Windows Live Messenger. Meebo provides its partners with an application programming interface (API) that allows them to tap into Jabber’s cross-platform feature. So MyYearbook, for example, can use Jabber’s cross-platform feature to authenticate that a MyYearbook user is indeed friends with specific users on these other IM services

By owning Jabber, Cisco can encourage other companies that make use of it — like Meebo and Google — to buy its equipment.

But Jabber is also a play aimed directly at businesses. Paul Boutin, a network administrator turned snarky blogger-reporter, says it best. Managers will be able to use Jabber to control employee’s IM use at a local level, using Jabber services (and Cisco equipment). Boutin writes:

By building Jabber support into its switchers and routers, Cisco can make it easy for admins to get alerts from their hardware in the same IM window as their buddies. Cisco can also sell company-wide IM setups that are closely tied to Cisco network gear for security and monitoring.